Château Vitallis: The Future Looks Bright in Pouilly-Fuissé
I’m declaring this the summer of white Burgundy. It’s all I want to drink, and it delivers body, succulence, suppleness—it’s an incredibly pleasurable category of wine. One of my go-to producers this summer is Chateau Vitallis, whose whites from the Mâconnais balance richness and vibrancy with juicy aromatics. I can’t get enough! And, thanks to our direct import program, they’re affordable enough to feed my addiction pretty regularly.
Vitallis is run by Denis Dutron and his son Maxime in a 13th-century château in the village of Fuissé. They practice organic farming and use indigenous yeasts in their winemaking—all important components in preserving the essence of place in a wine, which is important to this family that’s been farming the same land since 1835. We’ve been importing these wines directly for about five years, but, according to Burgundy Buyer Alex Pross, the 2017s are the best set of wines they’ve had. It was an amazing vintage for whites across the board in Burgundy 2017, and the wines from Vitallis are shining.
For years, Burgundy lovers have been able to look to Pouilly-Fuissé for high value-to-quality ratio. As there were (yes, past tense!) no premier cru– or grand cru–designated vineyards, producers couldn’t quite fetch the same prices as those of the Côte d’Or*. But there are changes under foot! For 10 years, a group of local winemakers studied the topography, geology, and history of the region to create a proposal for the INAO (France’s certifying body for appellations), recommending premier cru status of many of their vineyards. As of 2017, 22 Pouilly-Fuissé vineyards have been awarded premier cru status.
Whether this will make Pouilly-Fuissé wines more expensive remains to be seen, as we are still in early days and they are not yet allowed to put premier cru on their labels—locals estimate/hope that they’ll be able to by 2020. But it is certainly a coup for producers like Vitalis, who own some of the oldest and best sites in the region. And it certainly inspires a little stocking up on this stellar vintage while we’re getting such a good deal.
The Chardonnay for this wine was grown on 25-year-old vines in clay and limestone. There’s a balanced richness gained here by 6 months of aging the wine on its fine lees. Notes of green apple and orange marmalade dance along the acid backbone of the wine–and they’re not doing a ballet, it’s more of a soulful boogie to some Ray Charles.
The St-Veran vines are at the highest altitude in Vitallis’s portfolio, at 500 meters. They also face south and develop a natural sun-kissed ripeness that translates into a depth on the palate with hints of candied lemon peel interweaving with nice minerality.
This is grown on the domaine’s oldest vines, some of which are 85 years old! It spends 12 months in barrel on the fine lees, and it is absolutely gorgeous. You get notes of pear and spice and hazelnut, with layers of complexity. As with all of the Vitallis wines, there’s a voluptuousness, but it does not translate to excess weight—there’s beautiful acidity to carry it through.
This is an exciting cuvée from one of the new premier cru-designated vineyards! Though they can’t yet put premier cru on the label, it’ll hopefully be permitted within the next few vintages. This sees 18 months in barrel and a lot of battonage so there’s great texture. Aromatics of stone fruit and juicy, summery white plum with a spicy character and a lively verve.
Hurry and pick a few of these up or I’m drinking them all myself!
- Kate Soto
*One theory I found online (and you can always trust what you read online) is that the line of demarcation between northern Burgundy and south reflects the line of German occupation during WWII (northern Burgundy) and free france (southern). There was a law among German soldiers that they could appropriate and drink any wine that was not from grand or premier cru vineyards (which were saved for drinking by the Kaiser). In an epic hustle, northern Burgundy winemakers acted to declare many of their vineyards to be premier cru, thus saving them from being the spoils of war. Since the Mâconnais was in the free south, this step was saved and there were no cru vineyards in the region.